We visited Factory Five's...
We visited Factory Five's facility in early February. Surprisingly, while the air was crisp, there was no snow welcoming us when we landed in Boston. Wareham is just an hour and change south, but if you decide to visit the company, do yourself a favor and fly into Providence, Rhode Island, as the drive is shorter and nicer. (FFR is a stone's throw from Martha's Vineyard, so the trip will be a nice getaway for your significant other, as well.) Upon entering FFR's showroom, you'll be greeted by several displays, including Joe Fournier's FE-powered replica in Acapulco Blue, Nate Johnson's supercharged EFI small-block Roadster, Dave Smith's Coupe, a Challenge Series Racer, and a semi-complete chassis. You'll spend plenty of time, just as we did, walking from car to car.
The adage "too much power is just enough" can be attributed to just about any go-fast classic Ford with enough power to go sideways in every gear and melt the tires down to the cords, but there's never been a Ford-powered car that lived up to those words more than the 427-powered Cobra.
A car from which legends-as well as songs and even comedy routines-have been made, the big-block-powered, aluminum-bodied car simply called the "427" was, and still is, a sight to behold. With its long-hood, short-deck look (sound familiar?) and the brutish torque of Ford's FE engine, the 427 became a hit on racetracks everywhere.
Street versions were not so revered at the time, however, with their lack of creature comforts, hot driver compartments, high price tag, and other attributes that kept their street numbers at just 260 units built. The 427-powered Cobra-with its unique shape, power, and sound-has been lusted after by many gearheads, no matter their corporate affiliation. As years go by, the car's ultra-low numbers have done one thing-kept the ability to actually own one out of reach of so many people who hold the car close to their collective automotive hearts.
The Factory Five Racing Tour...
The Factory Five Racing Tour
Right off the showroom floor is FFR's 38,000 square feet of manufacturing and R&D. On the racks are Mk III Roadsters in various phases of completion. As orders are filled, these kits are taken down, given their options, and prepared for shipping. There have been times when the manufacturing floor was so full of kits, you couldn't move. Dave Smith tells us they ship approximately 15-20 Roadsters per week to customers.
Something happened, though, in the decades after the original car was built. It was the kit-car market. Seemingly overnight, companies were popping up and offering fiberglass bodies of classic car shapes for people to purchase and fit to another chassis-usually that of a Volkswagen Beetle. Workmanship was poor, customer service was insufficient (if the company was even able to stay in business), and the "rebodies," as they were called, certainly didn't have the power or sound of the original car the body was molded after. Can you say 45hp Ferrari? The bodies often looked contorted because they were reconfigured to fit the VW wheelbase. All this did nothing for the replica car movement but give it a black eye. Sales fell, companies failed or reorganized under another name, and whenever a car enthusiast heard the term kit car, they shied away. But change was coming.
Enter Mark and David Smith-two brothers who were fans of the original 427 but not fans of the kit car market. In 1995, they started Factory Five Racing (FFR) with their small team of engineers in a shop in Wareham, Massachusetts. Their concept was to build a steel-tube frame akin to the original-only better-that used the suspension and drivetrain of the popular Fox-body 5.0 Mustang ('79-'93), and top it off with a true-to-scale body.